Every bike has a final drive that facilitates the transmission of power from the gearbox to the rear wheel. By far the most common of these is the chain drive. But how does it work? And what makes it so much more popular than its alternatives? What do you, as a rider, need to know about motorcycle chains?
Today, the Tru-Tension team is here to break it all down for you.
Chain Drives in a Nutshell
Let’s start with the basics. The chain transmits mechanical power to the bike via the turning of a sprocket gear, the teeth of which mesh with the links in the chain to pull it into action. This is in contrast to the belt drive and the shaft drive, both of which require less maintenance but are much costlier to produce than the chain drive. The chain drive is also the most efficient of the three, experiencing only 1-4% transmission loss (much less than belt and shaft drives). It’s for this reason, along with the chain’s relative simplicity and affordable cost, that the vast majority of motorcycles implement them over other final drives.
Effective motorcycle chains need to be strong yet light. This is to ensure that riders have an experience that is both safe and smooth. The chain must have great tensile strength and an ability to withstand heavy impacts. Therefore, manufacturers are constantly looking to decrease the weight of the chain without compromising their durability.
What Types of Motorcycle Chains Are There?
In essence, there are two kinds of motorcycle chain: sealed chains and unsealed chains.
Unsealed chains, also referred to as “standard roller chains”, are simply a series of metal links that form plain bearings. You typically find unsealed chains on older models as well as off-road motorcycles.
Sealed chains, on the other hand, have rubber seals known as O-rings fitted in between the inner links and the side plates. O-rings seal in the grease and prevent dirt from corroding the links. Therefore, O-ring (sealed) chains have much greater longevity than standard (unsealed) chains.
By massively reducing the amount of lubrication needed, sealed chains revolutionised the industry and became the dominant chain type for motorcycles. Riders prefer them for their inexpensive cost, superior efficiency, and lack of comparative maintenance. Recent years have seen new forms of sealed chains being developed – most notably the X-ring. First conceived for track racing, the X-ring’s smaller surface area reduces friction when riding, making it the perfect choice for rider’s seeking maximum efficiency.
Cleaning & Lubricating Your Chain
Although sealed chains don’t require quite as much lubrication as their unsealed counterparts, regular cleaning is nonetheless a feature of owning a bike outfitted with a chain drive. Why? There are two main reasons why it’s important for a rider to regularly clean and lubricate their chain: to increase its longevity and to avoid dangerous performance issues. Without a functioning chain, you simply can’t ride. And if you neglect to take care of it, you could see your chain experience shifting issues, snapping midride, or whipping around violently. Our team here at Tru-Tension recommend lubricating your motorcycle chain every 400-800 miles.
For optimal chain performance, you should clean it first and wait for it to dry before applying the lube. With the Chain Clean & Lube Bundle, you’ll have everything you need to get the job done – and at a very affordable price. Our high-quality BananaSlip Chain Lube will not only bolster the lifespan of your chain and sprockets, it’ll leave them with a lovely banana fragrance upon application!
Checking & Adjusting Your Chain
In addition to consistent lubrication, every motorcycle chain requires consistent adjustment in order to function effectively. Failing to adjust your chain can result in a lot of the same performance issues you might encounter if you fail to lubricate it. For instance, a loose chain will flail around, causing damage to the bike, or it might even jump off the sprocket, get tangled up, and throw you off. At Tru-Tension we believe that adjusting your chain is a key skill that all riders should possess.
To avoid getting a loose chain, you need to keep it taut. With the Chain Monkey, this task has never been easier. Our accessible, industry-leading tensioning tool will allow you to get the job done with little knowledge required.
Chain Maintenance with Tru-Tension
At Tru-Tension, we have spent years delving into the minutiae of motorcycle chains in our pursuit of excellence. Our Chain Monkey, for example, was the world’s first motorcycle chain tensioning tool, and helped secure our brand the investment of prominent retail entrepreneur Touker Suleyman on Dragon’s Den in 2018.
Whether you are a new rider, a daily commuter or a competitive racer, our innovative, industry-leading motorcycle maintenance products are right for all levels of enthusiast.